Holiday Greetings to All!
The silence is deafening on our TBS ether network, so it’s about time I spoke up, unaccustomed as I am to keeping quiet. I do hope that all of you are keeping safe in the midst of this pandemic, just now approaching the peak for pain, suffering, and death, with the end in sight as we anticipate vaccine distribution. We all miss our meetings, workshops, and the camaraderie that ensues. Most of all, we miss the creative experience as we share our love of bonsai.
Attention, Bonsai Shoppers: The big box stores are bursting with great selections of material for purchase, unique to this holiday season. My photo features a trailing rosemary, purchased at Home Depot for $10 three years ago. I have styled this as a “bunjin cascade” to emphasize the twists and turns of the trunk and branches, and removed all the lower branches and buds. It’s been wired for two years. The tall, narrow pot complements the style. You will also find the bush type rosemary, along with Aleppo and Italian Stone pines. These pines are easily trained as formal uprights or wired into curving styles. These can be safely potted in January or February. Another good choice is Yaupon holly, now in the nurseries in all sizes. Be careful with wire—these are very brittle now.
This is a great time to finish up with cleaning junipers, before spring growth. I’m speaking of taking off those unnecessary and often browned suckers and bushy shoots that have filled up the space between those important secondary and tertiary branches. You should have clean, open space along those branches and twigs, allowing sunlight to penetrate and activate dormant buds to start the cycle all over again. I would leave the terminal growth at the tip of each branch untouched, as the growth auxins stimulate the side shoots and buds. We’ve been extremely dry and warm, so red spider mites continue to proliferate. A good spray with an all-seasons oil (paraffin based) is going to help to smother the critters. Of course, if you have Japanese black pines, you should have cut back leggy branches to side growth, and pulled out superfluous needles to allow sunlight to penetrate and activate buds. Recently, I toured several nurseries and found an excellent selection of one gallon procumbens nana juniper, at about $15 each. You can start work on these right away.
Fertilizing? Give very little now. Your deciduous trees will benefit from 0-10-10, which will not stimulate top growth; our plants need phosphate and potassium, plus iron chelate. Your evergreens can utilize a good organic fertilizer with a 5% to 8% nitrogen level, as they will continue to grow a little on warm, sunny days. We’ll hold off on higher nitrogen feeding until early spring.
Do you have pomegranate in your yard or bonsai collection? I recommend a spray of lime sulphur in water, about two tablespoons to a gallon. Be careful with this, wear rubber gloves and don’t get any on your clothes—its nasty stuff, and smells like rotten eggs. Apply this to all leaves and woody tissue, between Christmas and New Year’s. Protect your pot and soil from drips. Reason? All pomegranates are vulnerable to peach leaf curl, an airborne fungi, resulting in twisted and deformed leaves in warm weather. In spring, I will devote a blog to the Chico cultivar, with a photo of the one in my front yard. This variety is far superior to others for bonsai training, as the fruit and leaves are smaller. These do not come into our nurseries from California growers until March or April. Stay tuned!
On behalf of our board of directors and mentors, I want to wish you a joyous Christmas season and a healthy New Year!